Blog – “Keeping the memories alive” with George Hutchison & Jim Paris
This summer we’ve met with George Hutchison, Football Memories Volunteer, and his friend Jim Paris from the McCrae’s Battalion Trust.
From the battlefields of the Somme to Big Hearts’ dementia support groups, the two men explained how it is still important to perpetuate the legacy of former Hearts players.
“Initially we went as Hearts fans. Over the years, we found out that it is more than football. We grieve when we are over there.”
Earlier this month, George and Jim were in Contalmaison, France. For the past 14 years, they made the annual trip across the channel to attend the remembrance service held every 1st of July. A day to commemorate the thousands of fallen soldiers from the 1916 battle of the Somme, including the 16 Hearts players who enlisted in the 16th Battalion of Royal Scots – more commonly known as McCrae’s Battalion.
Commemorating the bravest team
In Contalmaison, the cairn erected by the McCrae’s Battalion Trust in 2004 stands in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. “Building a memorial in France has been a community project” explains Jim Paris, Associate at the Trust.
In the last decade, Contalmaison became a world-known symbol of this young generation of bright players who decided to leave their dream behind and answer the call of King and country – with seven of them never coming back .
“When they enlisted, Hearts were winning the League” explains George Hutchison, Big Hearts Volunteer. With their action leading the way to hundreds of supporters and rival football teams in joining McCrae’s Battalion, George is committed to make the trip to Contalmaison every year, as a sign of respect and gratitude. “In Contalmaison, it feels special to be standing where our players fought and died over a century ago so we can still be here today.”
Lest we forget
France, Germany, New Zealand, Canada… People from all over the world come to commemorate the bravery of the 1914 first team squad. “Contalmaison is bringing people together. It’s about solidarity and mutual respect.” explains George. With his wife, they built some wonderful friendships with other people attending the McCrae’s remembrance service, including with a French couple from Amiens and with Tom Wright, former Historian at Hibernian.
In Scotland many families have lost someone in the war, and with the last Scottish soldier from WW1 now departed, the two men insist on the legacy of McCrae’s and the importance of keeping the memories alive.
“Growing up as a kid there was a lot of questions I didn’t ask, and that’s why I want to change this for the younger generations.” explains Jim. “For the love of our Club and our country.”
Proud to be a Jambo
With over 14 trips to Contalmaison so far, the two men recall their most and proudest moment as Hearts fans.
“Meeting Jimmy Boyd’s niece at one of the services few years back” says Jim. “Being in her company to pay respect to her uncle was a direct link to the past.”
George is feeling honored to have officially represented Heart of Midlothian five years ago. “In 2013 when I bought the wreath and laid it at Contalmaison on behalf of the Club, it was one of the proudest moments of my life.”
100 years after the end of WW1, George and Jim hope the younger generations will continue remembering and sharing the history of McCrae’s Battalion. George’s commitment to Big Hearts’ Football Memories, based on the Club’s history and iconic players, will ensure the memories live on.
Post written by Matthew McDonald for Big Hearts, July 2018.